Andrés Javier Peña Cabra and Diana McCormick are both experts in their field in Bogota, Colombia. In early 2017, they chose Ottawa as their new home, and Ecology Ottawa as their first Canadian family, improving Ottawa’s streets using examples from Bogota, the global inspiration for sustainable cities.
“When we landed, I knew I wanted to keep working in sustainable transportation. I have been working in this area in Colombia for the past six years, performing strategic transportation studies to increase walking, cycling and transit use, supporting the implementation of policies to decouple economic development from greenhouse gas emissions, developing preliminary designs of urban streets and collaborating with non-profits to promote active transportation. Through this experience I gained an appreciation of how important civil society and grassroots organizations (e.g. “Fundación Despacio,” “Cebras por la Vida” and “Ciclopaseo de los Miércoles”) are to improving the quality of life in our cities, as well as of how the way we move determines our individual and collective well-being. So when we heard about Ecology Ottawa’s Active City branch and tree give-away campaign, we couldn't help but reach out.”
Andrés dove head-first into Ecology Ottawa’s research project on the state of active transportation in Ottawa, while Diana started by helping the tree team with appearing at events and organizing Ottawa’s first annual Park Summit. On her first day, Diana did some quick research and put together the key information about the five tree species we gave away this summer.
“In Diana's case, as health, environment, safety and quality manager at a port authority, she worked for four years with economically vulnerable populations, becoming aware of how environmental issues affect these populations. She wanted to do more and contribute to programs and activities that preserve and restore ecological balance.”
Andrés and Diana continued to amaze us. Andres quickly became a key part of the research team, drawing from his experience in Bogota, a textbook example of sustainable transportation best practices. Urban designers all over the world come to Bogota to learn about the pioneering Bus Rapid Transit system, car-free Sundays and networks of separated bycicle tracks, and Ecology Ottawa has an expert right here in Ottawa. Meanwhile, Diana helped with our tree giveaway campaign, various events over the summer, all while settling into a new country and looking for a job.
“Ecology Ottawa has been a welcoming and open-doors place since the beginning. It has provided me with the flexibility I needed to learn more about active transportation in Ottawa (the Whos, Whats, Whens, Wheres, Whys, Hows, and the Buts as well), while settling in. It has been a great opportunity to start contributing to the sustainable development of the City, and to meet amazing people and make new friends.”
This Giving Tuesday, we would like to give thanks to the dedicated and passionate volunteers like Andrés and Diana, who believe in safer streets, more efficient public transit and better connected communities, and are willing to stand up for it.